Review 1548: Daddy: Stories

The description of Daddy says that its stories explore the balance of power between the sexes. I did not find that to be the theme of every story, although it is for some. The book does explore the psyche of some unlikable people, many of whom are privileged and belong to show business or to the edges of the business. This is a world I’m not much interested in, so I felt little connection to these stories.

In “What Can You Do with a General,” John, who used to have anger issues, struggles to connect with his grown children over the holidays. In “Los Angeles,” Alice, a sales girl for a small store that plays up sexy women in the dress of its employees and its decor, begins selling her own underwear to men. In “Menlo Park,” Ben, who was fired from his job in disgrace, runs into trouble again while editing the autobiography of a controlling millionaire. In “Son of Friedman,” a once-famous director attends the opening of his son’s abysmal film with his old best friend, a still-famous actor. In “Nanny,” Kayla deals with the fall-out of having been caught having an affair with her married employer, a movie star.

link to NetgalleyAnd so on. I can see that the stated theme works for most of these stories except “Son of Friedman,” which, as with some other stories, is about the relationship between fathers and children. I found this collection disappointing after Cline’s excellent novel, The Girls.

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Day 399: Beautiful Ruins

Cover for Beautiful RuinsAt times I wasn’t sure how much I liked this novel, whether it wasn’t going to wrap its many threads into too neat a package. It does wrap things up, but ultimately in a satisfying way.

The novel begins in 1962, when Pasquale Tursi is a young man. He dreams of turning his very small Italian seaside village into a tourist attraction, so he is futilely trying to create a beach on a small strip of waterfront when a boat pulls in. It is carrying Dee Moray, an American actress who has been working on the troubled set of the movie Cleopatra. She has fallen ill and has come to Porto Vergogna to wait for her lover at Pasquale’s hotel, the Hotel Adequate View. Pasquale is immediately smitten.

In present-day Los Angeles, Claire Silver is contemplating leaving what she thought was her dream job, as chief development assistant for the legendary film producer Michael Deane. Claire’s vision for the job had been that she would help develop many exciting projects, but unfortunately for her, Deane hadn’t produced a hit in years until Hookbook, a TV “reality” show, like Facebook for dating. Since then, she has spent her time listening to pitches for sleazy reality programs.

This day might be her last Wild Pitch Wednesday, when anyone who can get an appointment can pitch her an idea. If she takes the new job she’s been offered, she’ll return to film archiving–for the Church of Scientology.

Shane Wheeler is on his way from Portland, Oregon, to present¬†an idea¬†at Wild Pitch Wednesday. A failed novelist, he has decided to trying pitching an idea for a movie about the Donner Party. On the way into the building, he encounters Pasquale, who has come all the way from Italy to try to find Dee Moray. Pasquale’s only lead is an ancient business card he got from Michael Deane, who was an assistant on the movie at the time, taking care of problems such as those posed by the scandalous affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Shane, Claire, and Michael Deane soon find themselves involved in helping Pasquale find Dee.

These are only a few of the characters we encounter as the story moves backwards and forwards in time, moves from person to person in point of view, and takes us from rural Italy to Rome to the inner circles of Hollywood to the Fringe Festival of Edinburgh to an amateur theatre performance in Idaho. On the way we are entertained by wry observations on the Hollywood film business and the music business, and the straight narrative style is carried forward by partial movie scripts, acts from plays, pitches, pseudo-pitches, a chapter from a novel, and some brief notes.

At times knowing, at times amusing, at times sweet, Beautiful Ruins is an engaging postmodern love story and commentary on the entertainment industry.